WASHINGTON (AP) — Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan told GOP lawmakers late Tuesday that he will run for speaker, but only if they embrace him by week's end as their consensus candidate — an ambitious bid to impose unity on a disordered and divided House.
Ryan spoke to the House GOP behind closed doors and said if all factions can share his vision and he can get the endorsement of the major caucuses, then he "be all in."
"We as a conference should unify now," Ryan told reporters later. "What I told members is if you can agree to these requests and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve, and if I am not unifying, that is fine as well — I will be happy to stay where I am."
The 45-year-old Ryan, under intense pressure to seek the post, gave his colleagues until Friday to express their support. The question will be whether he can win over the hardline House Freedom Caucus, which drove the current speaker, John Boehner, to announce his resignation and scared off Boehner's No. 2, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Ryan, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee, had consistently said he does not want to be speaker and would prefer to stay on as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, which he's described as his dream job.
But he's been under heavy pressure to reconsider from Boehner and other party leaders who argue he is the only House Republican with the stature and broad popularity to unite a caucus divided against itself, at a moment of deep turmoil.
Congress is hurtling toward an early November deadline to raise the federal borrowing limit or invite a first-ever default, and a deadline to pass spending legislation or risk a government shutdown will follow in early December.
Several members of the fractious Freedom Caucus were unconvinced after hearing from Ryan.
"I think he has to campaign for it. We've heard one speech," said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. "We're willing to listen but it's the beginning of the conversation as far as I'm concerned."
Ryan laid out a number of conditions under which he would serve, all of them aimed at defusing an atmosphere of constant chaos and crisis that has hung over the House for the past several years as a large group of tea party-backed lawmakers pushed for confrontation with the White House and demanded changes that the strictures of divided government never could deliver.
He said he encourages changes to rules and procedures — something eagerly sought by members of the Freedom Caucus who claim they've been shut out of legislating in the House. But he said any such changes must be made as a team, with input from all.
He sought a change in the process for a "motion to vacate the chair" — the procedure conservatives were threatening against Boehner, which would have resulted in a floor vote on his speakership and ultimately drove him to resign.
He also made clear to lawmakers that family comes first and that he would be spending less time on the road than Boehner, who traveled nearly every weekend raising money for the party. Ryan, by contrast, has school-age kids in Janesville, Wisconsin and wants to be able to continue to visit them.